Stories of design across all media


Amber & Ash: A Design that’s Always in Season

In our mobile-obsessed culture, there is no shortage of cell phone accessories to choose from. So when a cell phone accessory retailer tasked San Francisco brand strategy and design firm Noise 13 with creating a brand that would appeal to women, they knew they had their work cut out for them.

The biggest dilemma was “how do you stand out in a crowded cell phone market,” explains Noise 13 Founder and Chief Creative Officer Dava Guthmiller. To come up with the answer, Noise 13 headed up a collaborative, cross-agency team to figure out the strategic and design direction for the project.

They homed in on their audience and determined that style and color could separate their cell phone accessories from the rest. And as luck would have it, Noise 13 had the creative flair and designing chops to pull off a stellar cross-media campaign.


Embodiment of Beauty and Strength
One of the first orders of business was coming up with the name, logo and visual identity for the product. The name they chose, Amber & Ash, encompassed what they wanted the brand to be: products both pleasing to the eye yet ones that also provided practical protection for customers’ cell phones. Amber is one of the world’s natural accessories and ash is a tree thought by some cultures to offer protective powers. Together, amber and ash are strong yet beautiful and represent a balance of the feminine and masculine.

When Noise 13 did their research into the cell phone accessory market, “we looked at color as a differentiator,” Guthmiller explains. Most consumers carry the same cell phone case all year round despite the changes in their wardrobe from season to season. The creative team decided to offer a seasonal color palette, which would give cell phone accessories a more fashion-forward look and give customers a reason to update their cell phone accessories at different times of the year.


While they were certain that the target audience would appreciate stepping up their style, the creative team didn’t want customers to become overwhelmed. “There are 100 colors that come out every season, but no one wants 100 choices,” Guthmiller says. Therein lay the beauty of the Amber & Ash concept. Customers could look to the brand to curate the colors that would best complement their wardrobes.

Each season Amber & Ash would showcase colors that were inspired by the current fashion season, while also paying homage to classic hues that would always be in style. By studying how different designers applied color trends, they developed their own color stories for each three-month period, with each color story consisting of two colors that customers could build their seasonal wardrobes around.


Dialing into the Practical
Fashion and beauty weren’t the only things taken into consideration. For example, since women tend to wear clothing with silks and other fine materials, the creative team wanted to make sure the cases had no hard edges, says Guthmiller. “We didn’t want the cases to snag on a customer’s clothing.”

When creating the website, they also wanted it to be visually appealing while providing a pleasant shopping experience for those who would be buying their cases online. Photography played a big role as they selected images that illustrate how the phone accessories can bring an outfit to life.

Finally, Noise 13 worked on product design, packaging and the marketing strategy, while also providing insight into other elements of the product launch such as the price point and sales cycle.

When the brand finally launched in the fall of 2016, fashionable consumers were treated to a new era in style, with the promise of more Amber & Ash offerings in the future, such as headphones, chargers and laptop cases. From the early feedback customers have come to a consensus: cell phones have never looked this good.






Author: Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a freelance writer and editor who has written extensively about business, careers and success for such publications as Working Mother, Real Simple, and AARP Bulletin.

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